Full suspenion is something that a lot of the experienced bikes swear by! But how much do you need to cough up to buy a reasonable full suspension bike? Can you get a full suspension bike for under $1000 that is any good?
The GT Verb Comp is one of the few full suspension bikes that are on sale for less than $1000 and it is just about the only one from a major frame manufacturer. It’s actually GT’s cheapest full suspension bike. Being one of the only full suspension bikes in the $1000 price point, it is understandably an object of temptation for a lot of riders who want more than just another hardtail when laying down that much money.
But just like a lot of temptations out there, the flashy features may be masking some serious issues or may actually be liabilities themselves. The Verb Comp is the perfect example of full suspension bikes being more complicated to look at than hardtails and that there is a lot more to look at than just squish when deciding if you really want or need a full suspension bike.
|Fork||SR Suntour XCM Coil, 4.75” travel||Good|
|Rear Shock||All Terra AO-42 AR Airshock – Rebound Adjust||Bad|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano Alivio, 9spd||Bad|
|Front Derailleur||Shimano Deore||Good|
|Crank||All-Terra Zephyr, 36t, 22t||Ok|
|Brakes||Shimano MT200 Hydraulic, 7”F/7”R rotors||Good|
|Rims||Alex Rims, ASD10||Good|
|Tires||WTB Ranger Comp 29×2.25″ DNA Compound||Good|
Full suspension frames are inherently more complicated and more expensive than hardtails (you can check out our guide on choosing between hardtails and full suspension bikes). GT full suspensions frames that have their I-Drive suspension system are especially complicated due to the linkage that the bottom bracket is mounted on. This is why it’s not surprising that the GT Verb Comp has had to make a lot of compromises in its component spec to hit the $1000 price point.
A 120mm SR Suntour XCM Coil brings up the front. Surprisingly, this is one of the highlights of the build and the coil fork does a good job of easing out the chatter. Ours was a little sticky out of the box which turned out to be due to little if any lubricating oil in the lowers. Once remedied with some simple service, the fork was surprisingly plush on smaller chatter. Just don’t expect it to be there for you on large successive bumps or drops. The flex and the lack of any real compression damping make this fork hard to depend on for anything more than adding comfort to the ride. For this bike, that’s okay – adding the comfort of a little bit of plushness to an XC ride is essentially the purpose of the Verb Comp.
The real compromise of the build is in the drivetrain. The bike uses a mix of entry level components from Shimano to take care of a 2×9 gearing setup. 9-speed is tolerable, but the lack of modern clutch technology on a multi-ring full suspension bike takes away a good chunk of the fun factor of riding. Anyone who has spent a good amount of time on a bike from a decade ago will know that the chain will inevitably fall off a setup like this. Suspension motion only exacerbates the problem. On the plus side, the 22-36 front ring combo is the right complement for an 11-34t rear cassette, even for a 9spd drivetrain. You’ll still get a huge range of useable gears for climbing, descending and spinning on the road.
The MT200 brakes are entry-level hydraulic brakes from Shimano. They do alright and are actually a definite upgrade over entry-level offerings from other brands that offer hydraulic brakes.
The wheels are what you would expect from a bike at this price point. The rims are from Alex rims mounted on to Formula hubs with steel spokes. This setup is solid but heavy. Stiffness on the bike suffers from a lack of a thru-axle on the fork and the rear axle. The rims aren’t marketed as tubeless ready but converting them is worth a try with some good rim tape and plenty of sealant. WTB Ranger Comps connect the wheels to the ground. They’re fast rolling with a small profile but aren’t ideal for loose soil or mud.
Frame Build Quality and Geometry
The Verb Comp frame is actually quite respectable on its own. Although understandably heavy, the build quality is on par with GT’s other bikes. The 2018/2019 model has modern sizing and could actually be considered ahead of the curve at this point. The head angle, at 68.3°, and seat tube angle, at 73.3°, are a little more conservative compared to the new crop of high-end aggressive XC bikes. Those frames cost three times more than this entire bike, though. This problem could also actually be remedied with an angled headset.
What sabotages this frame is the rear shock. Rear suspension is the only thing this bike has going for it, but its neutered by the shock. It’s not entirely surprising, though, as rear shocks are complex and expensive. The sticky movement, lack of damping and ramp up buries any potential this frame had for performing.
Comfort is about the last thing I thought of when I got on the Verb Comp. When the suspension was set up to handle small chatter, it would bottom out very easily and bob; when setup not to bottom out, it was hard not to feel like you were just riding a heavy sluggish hardtail. But I could understand how someone without any experience riding high-end full suspension bikes could feel the squish and be convinced to drop money on it. Although comfort is a bonus, it is the handling and capability departments where full suspension bikes truly come into their own and become superior to hardtails.
Riding the Verb the way it was meant to be set up is more akin to riding a sofa. Its heavy, sluggish, and squishy to sit on – like it was built to impress on a parking lot test ride. The little confidence the rear suspension inspired instantly disappeared when I put it to the test over any bumps bigger than an inch or two high. It was difficult to find the balance on the rebound adjustment that would allow the ride to recover from bumps in a controlled manner and not pack up the suspension while not becoming an ejector seat on jumps or g-outs. So much of the problems on the Verb come from a very basic rear shock. It’s difficult to evaluate the potential of the frame’s kinematics and how it would perform with a good shock because any decent shock would increase the price of this bike significantly. The components they cut corners with to compensate for the more expensive frame also hurts the competitiveness of the bike against similarly priced hardtails. I can safely say that trading a decent drive train for poor suspension is a bad deal.
The GT Verb Comp is a difficult compromise. Its aimed at a market segment that is inherently flawed. It’s pretty much impossible to build a full suspension bike with $1000 that will out-perform a similarly priced hardtail. In my experience, bad suspension is worse than no suspension. What you gain in comfort you lose in efficiency and predictability.
|Overall Value for Money||Bad|
The GT Verb Comp’s Competition
There are only a handful of ~$1000 full suspension bikes from reputable manufacturers. GT is the only major manufacturer to offer a full suspension bike at this price point. Like I said above, this niche is a Catch-22 where the compromise in componentry is just not worth low-end rear suspension and the complications that come with it. Below are two examples of other manufacturers who have thrown their hat in the ring.
GT Verb Comp vs Diamondback Aroz 2
The Diamondback Aroz 2 uses a tried and true suspension layout that has been used for decades. It is simple but heavy, and quite dependent on the rear shock for good performance. The Aroz 2 actually achieves a price that is $100 cheaper than the Verb Comp with a component spec that is very similar. The GT makes up for this by having a better frame and more exotic suspension design.
GT Verb Comp vs Norco Fluid FS 4
It’s hardly fair to compare the Verb Comp to the Norco Fluid FS 4 because the latter is more than $600 more expensive. None the less, it is the best cheap full suspension bike by a decent margin and at the apt price point where full suspension bikes could actually compete with similarly priced hardtails. While the rear shock still leaves something to be desired, the rest of the build is solid and it actually comes with a good drivetrain. What really makes the bike shine is its progressive geometry. This puts it way ahead of even some premium offerings from other brands that haven’t fully embraced modern bike geometry. For a new rider looking for some squish, the extra $600 is well worth it for this bike.
It was quite bold for GT to offer the Verb at such a low price point. The compromises they’ve made in componentry, especially with something as crucial to the overall build as the rear shock, has neutered the bike. But this isn’t a dig against GT. There has never been a strong performing full suspension bike at this price point. At this price point, a strong hardtail contender will be a better bike any day. If you really want a full suspension bike, you’re going to have to try your luck on the second-hand market or lay down quite a bit more money.
Pros vs Cons of the GT Verb Comp
|· Proven suspension layout|
· Good sizing
· Suspension is effective at reducing harshness
|· Suspension is only good for reducing harshness|
· Poor component build, especially the rear shock